Friendship is hard. Trying to sustain a friendship after motherhood is even harder.
I’m in my early thirties with two kids, and I find myself pining for a friendly, authentic connection with another mom outside the routine playdate and weekly sports class. Most of us have that core group of friends—you know, the ones you have gone through everything with. They’ve been at your side through bad breakups and held your hair back after a long night of drinking. They’ve watched you land your first “real” job and were there when you thought you’d finally met “the one”.
But even through all of life’s ups and downs, the biggest change of all comes after you’ve had children—that’s when your friendships are truly tested. That is when you discover the hardships in your friendships and learn to appreciate the genuine comradeship.
Here’s what I’ve learned about friendship after children:
1. Friendships are just like relationships.
It’s hard. It requires love and attention. It needs to be nurtured and respected. There is a lot of weight put into our friendships. Apart from family, they are our primary social interactions.
I find myself checking in with my longtime friends occasionally between the morning rush to school or during my son’s weekly soccer practice, those are some of the spare moments I have. But even then, it’s difficult because I live across the country and the time difference often gets in the way. Sometimes though, late at night, after a long day of messy meals, dirty diapers, and after-school activities, I find myself briefly thinking about them. I think about all of the moments I have missed living so far away. I think about the birthday parties and baby showers I’ve missed. I think about the casual weekend double dates I’ve missed, and it makes me long for the connection we once had. It makes me miss that companionship. It makes me miss the heartfelt talks and the chit-chat about nothing.
But I have to remind myself in this stage of life, more than ever, a friendship requires effort. And more than ever in this stage of life, that is hard to do. And just like anything else in life, it might not last. And that’s OK.
2. Some of your friendships will grow stronger and some will fade.
I was the first of my friend group to have a baby. I was also the first to have two kids. There was a brief time when I was sad to not be living life as an adventurous, unattached 20-something-year-old, but I now know the importance of friendship in motherhood. I’ve learned that becoming a parent can make some of your friendships stronger, but it can also weaken others.
For the first few years in my new role as a mother, I struggled with the feeling that my friends just didn’t understand me. It was difficult for me to separate my new identity as “mom.” I was more than just a new mother, though—I was also an independent woman trying to navigate the tricky waters of raising a child while still trying to grow myself. I was grappling with how to also be a good wife, a good daughter, and a good friend in addition to discovering who I was.
It wasn’t until another friend of mine had a baby that I really felt understood. She let me know she valued and supported my role as a mother. Her unwavering encouragement made me feel that much closer to her, connecting on a deeper level.
And while other friendships have fallen to the side, I still appreciate the memories we’ve shared and the times they were there for me when I needed them. There are a million and one reasons why friendships may change over time, but the most important thing to remember is that, unfortunately, it’s a part of life, but moving on doesn’t erase the time we had together.
3. You shouldn’t drain yourself to save a friendship.
Being a parent means you have a million things going on. You have bills to pay and mouths to feed. If you notice you’re the one putting forth more effort to salvage a friendship, then it’s probably best to just let it go. And just like any relationship, you shouldn’t have to exhaust yourself to keep that person in your life.
Are friends worth the effort? Of course. But when it becomes one-sided, it becomes unhealthy. Not all friendships are meant to last forever. I’ve had friendships in the past that lasted only a few years but that doesn’t make the friendship any less meaningful. Friends are there to support you. And if that friend is no longer being supportive, maybe it’s time that friendship comes to an end.
4. Your happiness matters most.
Yes, your children are a priority. Yes, your marriage is a priority. But if you’re not happy, then how can you be the best version of yourself for your family? If a friendship is no longer serving you, if a friendship is no longer making you happy, then what is its purpose? Sometimes you have to say goodbye to a friendship you didn’t see yourself saying goodbye to. You matter—your happiness matters.